Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton
Based on a true story, this crackerjack crime saga provides a peek into the workings of a mob-controlled Irish-American ‘family’ in South Boston during the 1970s and ’80s. It also marks a welcome return to form for Johnny Depp after several disappointing performances. Adapted from the non-fiction bestseller of the same name, Black Mass holds the viewer in a vice-like grip from the very beginning and doesn’t let go.
Director Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) is as adept at etching the sordid shadings of the protagonist’s psyche as he is at charting his inevitable fall from grace. Among the film’s many exciting set pieces, there’s the threatening encounter in the bedroom doorway with the wife of an FBI agent, and the cold-blooded strangling of a prostitute (Juno Temple) who may or may not have ratted to the police. Throughout, the gangland confrontations are choreographed with precision. The period production design too is exceptional.
Director Cooper coaxes riveting performances out of his enviable ensemble. Sporting glazed-over blue contacts,
is in Oscar-worthy mode as the ghoulish psychopath. As his FBI handler, Joel Edgerton, who recently directed his own distinctive first feature, The Gift, makes for a perfect foil. Benedict Cumberbatch adds texture to the role of the politician brother. Black Mass makes for compelling viewing.